Oral historian Elaine Eff interviewed Bess Fishman on May 30, 2001 in Baltimore MD as part of the "Weaving Women's Words" project.
Born in 1909 in East Baltimore, Bess Fishman's life was shaped by family businesses, working first in her parents' grocery store and later with her husband. Steeped in her father's Zionism, Bess attended Hebrew school five days a week and had to complete her secular studies in night classes at Baltimore's City College after she left Eastern High School to care for her ailing father. After a whirlwind courtship in 1932, Bess had married Al Fishman, a widower nine years her senior who had a young daughter, Eleanor. Bess and Al had two sons, Nelson and David, and their home became a center for festive family and holiday gatherings. Bess worked with Al in their sewing thread business, originally located on the first floor of their East Baltimore Street home. The business expanded and prospered through the years, adapting to the needs of the consumer and the times. After Al's death, Bess married Sam Savitz in 1983. On the board of Beth Tfiloh Congregation for over 50 years, Bess served in a variety of leadership positions and acted as volunteer historian and archivist for its 60th anniversary celebration. She died on July 28, 2009.
Bess Fishman photo: Credit Joan Roth. Joan Roth's website
In the early 2000s, the Jewish Women's Archive conducted oral history interviews with 30 Jewish women living in Baltimore and another 30 in Seattle. Born in the early decades of the 20th century, these women lived through decades of political, social, and economic upheaval, as well as dramatic changes in expectations and opportunities for women. Doctors and lawyers, teachers and saleswomen, judges and social workers, homemakers and community volunteers, the narrators represent a wide range of backgrounds, affiliations, and experiences of American Jewish women. To find out more and to see the online exhibits based on this project, visit Jewish Women's Archive/baltimore and Jewish Women's Archive/seattle
The complete audio recordings and transcripts of the interviews are available on the Internet Archive.
This project was made possible in part by major grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Brenda Brown Lipitz Rever Foundation, and the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Foundation, Inc. In Baltimore, the project was a collaboration with the Jewish Museum of Maryland; in Seattle, with the Museum of History and Industry.